I’m writing about the Raspberry Pi for the same reason I write about anything: because I think it is pretty amazing. When I was a kid, I loved programming on our Amstrad 6128. Programming is the best way to learn how computers work, and with computers completely infiltrating our daily lives, it is now more important than ever that kids understand them.
However, despite being unbelievably powerful compared to my humble Amstrad and despite all the advancements in programming languages that have occurred over the years, modern computers are almost impossible for kids to learn to code on. This is really down to two factors.
The first is that, often, the computer isn’t exclusively theirs. To learn how something works you need to be able to pull it apart, and often, you might not know how to put it back exactly as it was, not something you want to be doing on a computer that has someone elses work on it. At £20 a pop plus a few secondhand bits and pieces, the pi is affordable for most families in the UK to buy their kids.
The second factor that limits learning on computers is the evilness of the manufacturers and software vendors, Apple and Microsoft in particular. Apple are so determined to lock you into the Apple market that writing low level programs for their devices is pretty much impossible without voiding your warranty and rooting the device. And as for Microsoft, words cannot begin to capture the seething black pit of sulphurous hatred I have for them, their business practices and their software. And this is before we get into the nightmare of hardware manufacturers who refuse to release their products’ specs and the problem that, thanks to moronic patent laws, doing even ridiculously trivial things on a computer can require the buying of a licence. Not that the Raspberry Pi is perfect in these last two respects (for example, its graphics chip hasn’t had its specs released and its hardware video encoding requires a licence), but it is certainly better than anything else about at the moment and is a big step in the right direction.
Because of this, I am writing a programming book aimed at kids, which is full of cool things for them do with their pi. As we get closer to the release of the book, I imagine the blog will be more focused on promoting the book, but for now it is just about sharing what I know about getting started with the Raspberry Pi.